Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday (15) said that there was no deadline for a political party to fill its National List slots.
Deshapriya said that nothing could be done even if a particular political party refrained from filling its NL slots. Deshapriya said so when The Island inquired about two NL slots that remained vacant over two months after the last general election held on Aug 5.
A slot each has been allocated to the UNP and Our Power of People Party (OPPP). Responding to another query, Deshapriya pointed out that if a consensus couldn’t be reached as regards the filling of NL slots, the EC was helpless even if they remained vacant during the entire parliamentary term.
The EC consists of Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.
Acknowledging that the Parliamentary Elections Act did not stipulate a time period for filling NL slots, Deshapriya regretted the situation. The 225-member parliament consists of 196 elected and 29 NL members.
Deshapriya said that though both the UNP and the OPPP members hadn’t been appointed yet, the circumstances regarding the failure on their part to fill the vacancies were quite different. The UNP hadn’t informed the EC yet of its choice whereas fighting among OPPP factions had ended up in court.
“In addition to the General Secretary of the party, a former General Secretary has submitted Chairman of the Party Saman Perera as their nominee. Now that matter is before court,” Deshapriya said.
OPPP sources told The Island that Ven Vediniyagama Wimalatissa thera, who had functioned as the Secretary of the party soon after the releasing of election results nominated himself as the OPPP NL member. Consequent to that move, a former Secretary of the party had nominated Chairman of the Party Saman Perera, who assured that he would take oaths and then quit the seat to pave the way for Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara to succeed him.
Fighting OPPP factions moved court in the wake of Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, advising the EC to accept the nomination made by the person who it considered the legitimate Secretary of the party.
UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam yesterday told The Island that the party hadn’t decided on its nominee yet. Former minister and unsuccessful candidate at the last general election declined to comment whether the party would pick someone from its National List handed over to the EC along with party nomination lists or a defeated candidate.
The SLPP (17), SJB (7) and UNP, SLPP, OPPP, JJB, TNA and AITC shared one NL slot each.
Kariyawasam didn’t indicate whether the UNP would name its choice before the debate and the vote on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The SLPP has repeatedly declared that it intended to secure parliamentary approval for the new piece of legislation before the presentation of 2021 budget next month.
Asked whether there had been previous instances of political parties delaying naming NL appointees, Deshapriya said that Colvin R. de Silva died a few days before taking his oath as a member of the newly formed United Socialist Alliance (USA) following 1989 general election. The party refrained from naming anyone until the handing over of the impeachment motion against the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Deshapriya said, adding that Raja Collure received the USA NL slot.
Deshapriya said that there had been problems in 1989 after LTTE ally EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students) secured 13 seats, including one NL slot. They refrained from taking oaths and appointing an NL member, Deshapriya said.
Both Deshapriya and Kariyawasam said that though those appointed and nominated had to take oaths within three months there was no time frame in respect of nominating NL members.
Convenor of March 12 Movement and executive director of PAFFREL Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that the parliament should take tangible measures to amend/introduce laws to ensure that political parties did not pursue strategies inimical to the parliamentary system.
Hettiarachchi said that the parliament couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for the pathetic situation. He pointed out that in spite of the 1989 trouble over the USA not filling the NL slot, successive parliaments hadn’t addressed the issue.